China Focus: Beijing reserves vast tracts of land for sustainable development

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BEIJING, July 28 (Xinhua) -- Balancing a ping-pong ball with a paddle in his right hand, Wang Zhongshen, a 70-year-old Beijing resident, works out almost every morning in Guangyanggu City Forest Park in Xicheng District. Following the exercise, he usually indulges in a lifelong hobby: the Peking Opera, for another ten-minute practice.

"Since I don't want to travel long distance or be cooped up at home all day amid the COVID-19 epidemic, I come to the park for a workout and I appreciate greenery and flowers. I enjoy spending time here," said Wang, who lives about 500 meters away from the park.

Like Wang, many elderly residents living nearby are regulars to the park, but that was not until recently.

"The park used to be filled with filth and stinking trash," Wang said, adding that nearby residents had to make a detour around the place during the summer because of the awful smell.

In 2017, Beijing announced a plan to build the capital city into a world-class harmonious and livable metropolis by 2035.

Based on the plan, the city put forward a policy called "strategic land reserves", in which Guangyanggu park was included.

The policy requires designated land to be zoned for future development where construction is not allowed unless for major, strategic projects. And for the time being, the reserved areas will be greened to improve the environment.

The 4.4-hectare park stands out as the largest of its kind at the center of the capital.

"Trees planted in this downtown area become more valuable," said Xicheng's Party chief Lu Yingchuan.

"Given the high cost of the land and revenues that could have been yielded from an industrial park, the opportunity cost of each tree on the site can be over 100 million yuan (14.3 million U.S. dollars)," Lu said.

Zhang Wei, director of the Beijing Municipal Commission of Planning and Natural Resources, pointed out that the policy is aimed for sustainable development.

"Certain fields are reserved for future expansion or the transformation of some industries. For example, about 73 hectares of land has been set aside around the Universal Studio Beijing for derivative industries," Zhang said.

He added that the policy also works to improve the city's livability with more parks and gardens being built.

Beijing has mapped out a total area of 132 square km for "strategic land reservation" to be preserved until 2035, according to the Beijing Municipal Commission of Planning and Natural Resources.

The city plan also lays out that, by 2035, the forest coverage rate of the whole city will increase to no less than 45 percent.

The Guangyanggu park has played a significant role in the area's ecological restoration and biodiversity conservation, according to the Xicheng government. Around 40 species of birds have been observed in the park.

"Long-term development should always be taken into consideration while economic benefits are pursued, and policymakers must be responsible for both people and history," Lu said. Enditem

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